Why Running is Good For Your Knees
Updated: Oct 21
If you’re a runner (or even if you’re not) then at some point you’ve been told that you better be careful because running is bad for your knees. Or maybe you’ve just wondered is running bad for your knees or hips or is running bad for your knees long term? Maybe you’ve even been told to be careful by your doctor, physical therapist, or Dr. Google. Well, here’s the good news. Dust off those running shoes or buy a new pair, because you can step up those miles without fear of hurting your knees. Turns out, “running is bad for your knees” is just an old wive’s tale that isn’t actually backed up by research. The truth is that the exact opposite is true. Running can actually be good for your knees and if you’re a runner, you probably have healthier knees than people who don’t run! Let’s go over some of the important things to know.
Is running bad for your knees?
No! Research actually shows that recreational runners have healthier knee joints, less arthritis, and better cartilage than people who don’t run. How can that be true with all that pounding your legs and knees take with running? Well, let’s use weight lifting as an example. If you lift weights, your muscles adapt to that and grow stronger so that you can lift more weight. If you break a bone, you might be in a cast at first but it won’t heal properly until you put the right amount of stress through it. That’s how your body heals, grows, and adapts to stress. Everything in your body responds to stress. If you put the right amount of stress through it, it gets stronger. Your knees and cartilage are no different. As long as you slowly increase your mileage, your knee joints respond by getting stronger and are better able to handle the “pounding” that you put through them. Long term, this actually makes you less likely to develop arthritis.
What can you do to protect your knees?
There are two important ways to protect your knees with running.
Slowly increase your mileage. If you are running 5 miles per week right now, don’t jump to 20 miles per week. If you’re just starting out, start with 1 or 2 mile runs a couple of times per week. You need to let your body adjust to the change in distance. If you increase too quickly, that’s when problems can happen. A good rule of thumb is to not increase your total mileage by more than 10% each week.
Strength train. We know, we know, all you want to do is run. But, it’s really important to perform some sort of strength training. The stronger your muscles are, the more they take the stress from running. That means they can help your knee joints and cartilage with every step you take.
What else is important?
Make sure you change your shoes often! If you’ve been running in the same shoes for a couple of years, it’s time for an update. They’ve probably lost their shock absorption and your knees are taking more stress than they need to. You should change your shoes every 250-400 miles.
Listen to your body. While we just talked about how running isn’t bad for your knees, it doesn’t mean to ignore knee pain. If your knees are starting to talk to you during or after your runs, it might be time to back off slightly on your mileage.
Think about getting some professional advice. If you’ve had knee pain that’s been limiting your running, it’s time to get some help. Make sure you find a doctor, physical therapist, or someone else that won’t just tell you to stop running. That won’t solve the problem at all. All that does is delays you getting better AND makes you stressed because you can’t run.
If your knees are holding you back from your runs, we’re here to help. Our approach is to find what’s causing the problem, fix that, and keep you running while you get better. One of our experts will be happy to talk to you to find out if you’re a good fit for our approach. Reach out to us here and we’ll find a time to chat.